AT&T to chase Sprint iDEN subs with November launch of Enhanced PTT service

AT&T Galaxy S 3 PTT

The Samsung Galaxy S III is one of the handful of devices supporting AT&T's new push-to-talk service.

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) appears to be preparing to take its Enhanced Push-to-Talk offering nationwide in November. The action could position AT&T to more effectively capture Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) remaining iDEN subscribers due to Sprint's decision to shutter its iDEN network by next year.

AT&T has made no secret of its plans to launch a new PTT service, which is based on technology from Kodiak Networks. In June the carrier said it expanded its testing of the service, which at the time the company said would offer "great performance, advanced features, integration with mobile apps and interoperability with radio systems." The carrier has been pushing the service to prospective business customers via a series of sales events in cities across the country.

And now it appears that AT&T is poised to launch the service nationwide. According to an AT&T website, the service will launch in November and will work across a number of devices, including Android and BlackBerry devices. AT&T spokeswoman Mari Melguizo confirmed that the service would work on six different smartphones, including multiple devices from Samsung Electronics.

"AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk is a Voice-over-IP solution," Melguizo wrote in response to questions from FierceWireless. "Using AT&T's IP data network as the backbone for the solution we're trialing will provide faster connection times and better quality of service. Kodiak's InstaPoC technology is an advanced PTT service that achieves sub-second call setup times without requiring customization on radio access networks (RANs) or underlying cellular networks."

Melguizo declined to confirm the November launch date, and did not offer any further details on AT&T's PTT plans.

According to a source familiar with AT&T's plans, the carrier's Enhanced PTT service will be available on smartphones running Android 2.3 and up, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 7. It will also work on feature phones with Java, though those phones won't support all the features available on smartphones. Interestingly, AT&T's Enhanced PTT service will also work across laptops, tablets and in-vehicle devices. It will cost around $30 per month.

As for performance, AT&T's new PTT service will support sub-second connections, can be used simultaneously with data, and will work internationally, the source said. In the first quarter of next year, AT&T will upgrade the service to work over Wi-Fi networks, and will support seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

AT&T's new PTT service is an attempt by the carrier to capture at least a portion of Sprint's iDEN subscribers. Sprint reported 4.4 million iDEN customers at the end of June; the carrier has been steadily losing iDEN customers for years. The iDEN network's speedy and reliable Direct Connect PTT service has long been the main selling point for the service, with field service, construction and other workers using it in their jobs.

In May, Sprint announced it would shut down its iDEN network as soon as June 30, 2013, and will refarm its 800 MHz iDEN spectrum in order to launch LTE. In a bid to persuade its iDEN customers to switch to its CDMA network, Sprint in May introduced its new CDMA Direct Connect PTT service, powered by a new solution from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), which the carrier said offers similar PTT speeds as its iDEN network with greater coverage.

Indeed, AT&T is clearly taking aim at Sprint's iDEN customers: "Is your business using iDEN push-to-talk, and looking for a better alternative that will be around for the long run?" AT&T noted on its website. "AT&T Enhanced PTT is a high-performance cellular push-to-talk solution designed for a wide range of popular smartphones and ruggedized devices, with the power of nationwide 4G + 3G network coverage."

For more:
- see these three AT&T websites

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AT&T expands trials of enhanced push-to-talk service
Sprint to end iDEN service as soon as June 30, 2013